Tapiwa who is a U-Report CATS said he used to think HIV and AIDS is only a result of promiscuous behavior, which gives a reflection of myths and misconceptions around the transmission of the disease. This has taught him to refocus on issues around HIV prevention, treatment, care and support.
By Joneck Gwatiwa & Tinashe Rufurwadzo
U-Report is a free SMS social monitoring tool for community participation which has managed to create a virtual space for the like-minded to share information and experiences while retaining anonymity. Like anyone else, the adolescents derive solace from knowing they are not in isolation.
“When I was introduced to a university student who is taking antiretroviral treatment, I blamed myself for having had contemplated committing suicide. It was liberating seeing fellow peers pursuing their career goals without even having to preoccupy their minds with the negatives of being positive,” Tapiwa revealed.
The support given to this project by UNICEF and Africaid was funded by the Japanese Government who contributed US$630 000 to assist vulnerable children and adolescents in 4 districts around Zimbabwe affected by the 2017 el-nino drought.
In Zimbabwe, adolescents and young people represent a growing share of the country’s population. The group is falling in terms of accessing HIV Testing Services (HTS) because of limited channels of disseminating information with. It is imperative to note that there is need to use adolescent- friendly strategies to engage this cohort in accessing youth-friendly information and services at health facilities and to improve adolescents’ knowledge of HIV issues, including adolescents in hard to reach areas.
Melissa, a Community Adolescent Treatment Supporter (CATS) with Africaid’s Zvandiri programme abandoned her initial dream of pursuing an accounting profession after discovering a new passion in online counselling through regular interaction with adolescents and young people in Zimbabwe.
“I have never imagined a safe haven of interacting with adolescents and young people on issues which regard to their health including sexual reproductive health and HIV – l feel like l am at home when l am responding to cases on an interactive short messaging service.” said Melissa.
CATS are peer counsellors who are implementing the differentiated service delivery which was adopted by the Ministry of Health and Child Care, these are adolescents and young people between the ages of 18 to 24 years who are responsible for counselling and supporting a cohort of HIV positive children, adolescents and young people in the community through home and clinic visits. They identify adherence challenges, trace treatment defaulters, and proactively identify and refer children, adolescents and young people in need of further investigation for possible opportunistic infections, treatment failure, child protection issues and their psychosocial support, sexual and reproductive health needs.
In 2015, UNICEF and Africaid partnered in a bid to promote the uptake of HIV prevention, treatment, care and support services. Since then, U-Report CATS have managed to respond to more than 6 000 cases. The system has so far registered 77, 000 people with 33 000 of them being adolescents and young people between the age of 15 to 24 years.
U-Report is being implemented in 39 countries and in Zimbabwe it is being implemented with support from Zimbabwe Youth Council and other government ministries.
U-Report is a free SMS social monitoring tool for community participation, designed to address issues that the population cares about. To join U-Report text the word “join” to 33500 from any network, all SMSs are FREE. You can make a difference today.